One inch: The difference between life and death in combat
He was airlifted to a makeshift hospital where a surgeon removed the metal fragment. The doctor then revealed that if the chunk had entered Holder’s neck “one centimeter to the left,” it would have opened an artery. He likely would have bled to death in the truck. Instead, he was back on the line 10 days later. He never lost consciousness…
In November 1968, Baginski, then 21, hovered his chopper at about 75 feet in thick foliage as other men on board dropped crates of ammunition to U.S. soldiers who were running low on bullets amid a battle with a far larger North Vietnamese force. The helicopter’s tail rotor spun inches from branches thick enough to bring down the craft. At the same time, North Vietnamese Army troops fired on the chopper. Bullets pierced the floor. The co-pilot was struck in the arm. A sergeant major was hit in the foot. The instrument panel and numerous gauges — directly in front of Baginksi — were obliterated in the barrage. When the ammo drop was complete, he carefully maneuvered the bird up and through the jungle canopy.
“I have no idea how many rounds we had hit on the inside of that helicopter,” Baginski said. “But there had to be at least a dozen that struck that instrument panel and fragments were going anywhere. I don’t know how close I came but it had to be pretty close.”